Chris Hedges on the Tea Birchers

In a recent TruthDig essay, Chris Hedges (I think accurately) sizes up the Herderian Tea Party movement in America, and where it is moving us:

There is a yearning by tens of millions of Americans, lumped into a diffuse and fractious movement, to destroy the intellectual and scientific rigor of the Enlightenment. They seek out of ignorance and desperation to create a utopian society based on “biblical law.” They want to transform America’s secular state into a tyrannical theocracy. These radicals, rather than the terrorists who oppose us, are the gravest threat to our open society. They have, with the backing of hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate money, gained tremendous power. They peddle pseudoscience such as “Intelligent Design” in our schools. They keep us locked into endless and futile wars of imperialism. They mount bigoted crusades against gays, immigrants, liberals and Muslims.

And in the same essay Hedges makes a prediction of what a uniquely American cult nationalism might come to look like:

There will be no swastikas this time but seas of red, white and blue flags and Christian crosses. There will be no stiff-armed salutes, but recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance. There will be no brown shirts but nocturnal visits from Homeland Security. The fear, rage and hatred of our dispossessed and confused working class are being channeled into currents that are undermining the last vestiges of the democratic state.

I think this all started when the right began vocally and openly defending torture a few years back—and euphemizing it. From that point forward, there was no longer any sense of shame—no viewpoint in the service of “conservative” goals that could ever be expressed in too extreme a fashion. And, of course, John McCain then put Sarah Palin on a national presidential ticket. That sure didn’t help.

And did you catch this story in the Atlantic from the past week?: “Rich Iott, the Republican nominee for Congress from Ohio’s 9th District, and a Tea Party favorite” has “for years donned a German Waffen SS uniform and participated in Nazi re-enactments.”

Isn’t that a nice thing for him to spend his weekends doing? You know. Just for fun and bonding with his son.

And he stands to be an Ohio congressman.

Seriously.

And what might bring the American Anti-Enlightenment right into broad political power—controlling both houses of Congress, the Presidency, and, through new appointments, ultimately the Supreme Court? Back in August, Hedges offered the following scenarios:

The spark that could set this conflagration ablaze could be lying in the hands of a small Islamic terrorist cell. It could be in the hands of greedy Wall Street speculators who gamble with taxpayer money in the elaborate global system of casino capitalism. The next catastrophic attack, or the next economic meltdown, could be our Reichstag fire. It could be the excuse used by these totalitarian forces, this Christian fascism, to extinguish what remains of our open society.

And then we’ll have a civilizational war with the Islamic world, won’t we?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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